Nowhere is this Shakespearean line more relevant than in the discourse of smallholder livelihoods in the wake of threats around climate variability. As smallholder farmers “lurch from drought to drought”, their food security increasingly becomes precarious. This opens up a host of questions: Why do smallholders become food insecure? To what extent is the food insecurity a result of rainfall variability? And perhaps most importantly, what interventions are appropriate to enhance smallholder livelihoods in an environment characterised many stressors? Thus, to be food secure or not is the question.

But how do smallholders become food secure? This brief think piece cannot exhaustively address this question. However, I argue that smallholder innovations have potential to help smallholders become food secure. Smallholder farmers in rural southern Zimbabwe have diversified their livelihood options by forming a co-operative. They harvest water from a nearby stream that flows from a mountain. Besides growing vegetables in their garden, they also engage in fish farming where they dig ponds to breed the fish and they use leftover food to feed the fish. Business is brisk as they sell the fish to neighbouring villagers. Agricultural extension officers are on hand to assist with technical advice and they run several workshops in the village as a way of trying to empower the smallholder farmers. This appeared to have paid off handsomely as witnessed by the increase in the fish numbers along with the productive crops produced.

Should we rule out thinking inside the box? We can only do so at our own peril. The farmers are using traditional methods of conserving the vegetables and fish. They dry the vegetables and fish in the sun. Have these interventions helped improve food security? Apparently so…

By Chris Mabeza

Feel free to share your inspirational stories with us so that we can share them. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year fellow farmers! Love from the Amanzi for Food team.